Minneapolis group files lawsuit to halt Southwest light rail

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A Minneapolis group has filed a lawsuit to stop the Southwest light rail project from moving forward, citing environmental concerns.

The Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis filed a federal lawsuit in Minnesota's U.S. District Court Monday morning saying the Metropolitan Council and the Federal Transit Administration haven't studied the environmental impact of the light rail plan.

The is just the latest hiccup in the disputed $1.6 billion light rail project, which is said to be the most expensive transit project in state history. The 16-mile line would connect Eden Prairie to downtown Minneapolis, and the five cities along the route have approved a modified plan, which calls for a shallow tunnel under the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis' Kenilworth corridor.

An environmental review of the original plan was conducted in 2012, but the plans have since changed. A more thorough assessment isn't expected to be complete until 2015.

The Lakes and Parks Alliance's lawsuit argues the five cities that approved the project shouldn't have given consent before every environmental impact had been studied, KSTP reports.

The lawsuit asks that the cities' approval of the line be nullified and further funding be blocked unless light rail planners complete the environmental study and consider "reasonable alternatives," the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal says. The group had previously asked the Federal Transit Administration to halt funding for the project, but the agency said it had no reason to do so.

The lawsuit says residents in the Kenilworth corridor "will be injured by the environmental harm that will result if the [light rail] project moves forward without the required environmental review which must precede the municipal consent process," according to the Star Tribune.

The Met Council has not commented on the lawsuit, but a spokeswoman with the organization recently told the newspaper that lawsuits aren't uncommon with these types of projects, noting that the line won't be stopped by a lawsuit unless it's ordered by a court.

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